Tomislav Perko: Around the World in 1000 Days

Leah Driscoll chats with Tomislav Perko, author of 1000 Days of Spring, about his experience packing up and living a life of travel.

Picture this: you’re a high-flying stockbroker. You’re only in your early twenties, yet things have already worked out pretty well for you. Your idea of a uniform is a suit and tie, and you’re making a delightful amount of money as you reach the peak of the rollercoaster that is the stock market.

Suddenly, the global downturn of 2008 arrives, and the rollercoaster has just dramatically and tragically veered off its tracks. You’ve lost all of your earnings, not to mention your friends’ and family’s savings. What do you do? You drop everything and travel the world, of course.

Or at least that’s what Tomislav Perko did. After losing it all in what he describes as “the worst period of my life” and with his career as a stockbroker broken beyond repair, Perko set on a mission to travel around the world on a budget of just ten dollars a day.  

Perko in Kenya
Machu Picchu

This quest saw him experience the splendours of the southern atmosphere, moving from Asia to Australia, to Africa and South America –all of this done while essentially living on pocket change.

Six years later, and with a wealth of travel experience under his belt, Motley spoke to Perko about his adventures. First and foremost on the list of questions: how can you possibly survive on ten dollars a day?

Pretty unconventionally, it seems.

Hitchhiking is the main money-saver: Perko has travelled 50,000 miles in five different continents, hopping on everything from trucks to boats, and even on the backs of donkeys. Upon reaching the destination of the day, he relied on everything from couch surfing to camping and even housesitting in order to get a night’s rest.

With transport and sleep taken care of, secondly comes the matter of packing. What do you bring for an indefinite, round the world trip? Packing light is key. “When traveling you learn to live on little items as possible,” says Perko.

Apart from the obvious things like a sleeping bag, mat, some clothes and a camera, Perko suggests that the most significant travel essential is immaterial: “All you need is the right attitude and a positive energy.”

The cynics among us, including myself, would question how easy it really is to travel alone, especially while relying so heavily on the generosity of strangers. Aside from a good attitude, it seems that bravery would be the real travel essential here.

Perko disagrees: “To this day, I always tell people that courage wasn’t the thing that pushed me to travel, but pure thoughtlessness.” 

It turned out that bravery wasn’t really necessary, as bad experiences were few and far between: “I honestly cannot remember something negative happening to me while I travelled.”

I’m still not convinced; even if Perko can travel freely and safely, would a woman have the same experience? Travelling alone as a woman is likely to result in a whole new set of dangers, or at least from what I had heard.

Again, he is quick to correct my assumption.

“On an every day basis, you have to be extra careful, but there are so many good people out there that you should be safe, if you use your common sense.” 

Horse hitch hiking in Turkey.
Horse hitch hiking in Turkey.

Perko even dedicates a section of his website to women wishing to travel solo, with female contributors giving their advice on staying safe and making the most of the experience: “I met so many girls traveling by themselves, and their stories were also amazing”.

In fact, the main lesson Perko has seemed to learn is how good-natured people can be, despite stereotypes and cultural differences.

“Iraq, Iran, Pakistan – the ones the media tells you how dangerous they are; even though we know only about their bad sides, these countries are home of one of the most hospitable people on the planet.”

Since he first set off to distant lands, Tomislav has become a well-known travel blogger, delivering a TEDx talk that has clocked up over a million views to date on YouTube. For Perko, the talk, entitled ‘How to Travel the World with Almost No Money’ held a great significance: “I think the best thing about my TEDx talk is that it proves that it doesn’t matter who you are – the idea is what counts.”

For the first time in years, Perko is not hitchhiking from corner to corner of the globe. He is currently based back at home in Croatia, as he cultivates an already strong online presence. While season-themed sequels are likely to follow Perko’s best-selling book 1000 days of Spring, ultimately “the plan is not to have a plan… The thing I want to follow is just that feeling that I have – whether it involves moving a lot or staying in one place”.

Couch surfing
Couch surfing

As we finish up our talk, Perko gives his one piece of advice for someone thinking of following in his footsteps: “Don’t over-analyze. If you want to do something, find a way and do it.”

A quick chat with Perko has me looking for the nearest donkey to hitchhike around the globe, but for now, keeping up to date with his story on tomislavperko.com will have to satisfy the sense of wanderlust.